The official website of Mohammed Ansar
Austerity cuts from Watford Borough Council have put at risk play areas vital for child development and outreach for poor and marginalised communities across Watford and the surrounding areas.
The Harebreaks and Harwoods Adventure playgrounds have served communities for decades. I used to go to them, then became a volunteer at the Holywell Community Centre. As the oldest kid in our local communities it seemed the thing to do. And you get to play table tennis.
The volunteering soon became a casual contract and in turn I became a fully fledged youth worker, working for the Borough Council for five years on and off. From face-painting on the playbus to play schemes; from working with autistic children and adults to outreach centres where you get blockaded in by disaffected kids (only managing to negotiate your exit through a letterbox because you know the Asian kid’s family); to arts and crafts or being brown-skin Elvis in a white spangly jump suit on the carnival float through town and ending up at Cassiobury Park. Erm… Yes whatever it took, I guess.
The adventure playgrounds have been a crucial and vital part of the lifeblood of Watford. Like many towns and local authorities, we’ve seen children’s services become decimated, children’s centres closed down or privatised, child poverty increase to record levels and one million people queuing for foodbanks. People have had enough. Children are not pawns to be offered up during this juvenile socio-economic and political power play. We have lives to live. Things are hard enough.
Support for the campaign opposing the closure of Harebreaks and Harwoods APGs has come from around the country. But we need more help. Raise the issue with your MP.
What’s happening to your child services and play provisions? Where are the poorest and most in need of integration, education and help, meant to go? What has been cut in your area, what’s next?
Public consultations are not beyond the pale, nor should they ever be.
The Council has the time, the budget and the people power to allow a grace period to look at the options available and to truly consult the communities these decisions are affecting. True unfettered democracy is empowerment and security, for both citizens and governors alike. There should be much merit and little risk in taking time – whether that’s EU referendum or children’s play provisions – to come to a right and sensible settlement.
Keep play centres open. Consult. Make plans. Organise yourselves. Cuts aren’t an inevitability that is unmanageable or unforseeable. Good people will help.